Slouching towards hell

Imagine if someone had submitted to the Los Angeles Times a well-crafted op-ed that rationally and calmly argued the following: if only the Arabs of 1948 had united more tightly, had planned more carefully, and had done a better job enrolling strategic and powerful allies to their cause, Israel as a Jewish state would never have seen the light of day, and we would have never had to endure one of the most thorny and tragic problems in modern history — the Arab-Israeli conflict. Imagine if such an op-ed had been submitted to the opinion editors at the Los Angeles Times. Do you think the Los Angeles Times would have published such a piece? And if by some freak accident it had published it, how long do you think the opinion editor who made the decision to publish would have survived in his or her job?  

And yet: on January 26, 2004, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed [1] that argues rationally and calmly that Israel should have exerted itself more energetically in 1948, should have expelled all of the indigenous Palestinian civilians, and that had Israel done that, today there would be no conflict and both Arabs and Jews would be living in peace:

I find myself as convinced as ever that the Israelis played a major role in ridding the country of tens of thousands of Arabs during the 1948 war, but I also believe their actions were inevitable and made sense…. Israel’s decision was not unprecedented, nor was it necessarily immoral.  

Make no mistake about what happened on January 26, 2004. On that day, one of America’s most prestigious mainstream newspapers gave space to an opinion piece that considers ethnic cleansing an acceptable and not ‘necessarily immoral’ ‘solution’.  

To be sure, it is indeed a good thing that we are now finally seeing the logic of Zionism unfold right in front of our eyes. It is a good thing to have its spokespersons explain and illustrate calmly and rationally just in what way supporting Zionism will lead one to support ethnic cleansing. And there is no doubt that people have the right to know where its author, Israeli historian Benny Morris, and others like him in Israel stand on ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.  

But all of that is beside the point. The readers of the Los Angeles Times could have been amply informed of the opinions of Benny Morris and others sharing his ideas with factual news articles. The point is that the Los Angeles Times has given credibility and rendered speakable what should remain unspeakable. Talk about justifying ethnic cleansing is beyond the pale of acceptable discourse!  

There is no doubt that the Los Angeles Times will react to criticism of their decision to publish the op-ed by holding up the ‘freedom-of-speech’ card. But would they hold up such a card in defense of a decision to publish a piece that argued that wife-beating, child molestation, slavery, or racism are not necessarily immoral? Would the Los Angeles Times or any other paper even dream of publishing such op-eds and then defending their action by invoking the freedom of speech argument? No, they would not. There are certain opinions that simply should not be dignified with op-ed space. And arguing that ethnic cleansing is an option that is not ‘necessarily immoral’ is such an opinion.  

On the day before Benny Morris’s op-ed was published, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed [2] by a Palestinian, George Bisharat, arguing that the only moral solution remaining to solve the problem between the Palestinians and the Israelis is the one-state solution. It is clear now why the Los Angeles Times dared publish that op-ed: it was part of a one-two package deal, where the editors and the Los Angeles Times obviously hoped to play the two sides of the divide against one-another.  

But such fancy maneuvers should fool no one. George Bisharat’s op-ed piece is rooted in basic human rights principles and never calls for violating the human rights of anyone. It is an insult to people’s intelligence to expect that readers will view — as the Los Angeles Times clearly hopes people will — George Bisharat’s op-ed as being one side of the coin, and Benny Morris’s as the other side of that same coin. There is simply no moral equivalency between the two pieces.  

What is also clear is that by publishing the two pieces one after the other, the Los Angeles Times is hoping to spark a ‘debate’ about all the ‘extreme’ potential options from both sides.  

But let us not fall into this deadly trap. There is nothing to debate over Benny Morris’s op-ed. The only morally acceptable reaction to his fascist writ is to express disgust and indignation over the Los Angeles Times’ decision to publish it. What he said is beyond the pale, and we should make as much noise as possible against ANYONE who does anything to make it something that is within the pale. And any ‘debate’ over the merits of his ‘option’ would play precisely into the hands of Benny Morris and the ethnic cleansers. It would make it just another option that we can talk about, get used to, and, when the ‘right circumstances emerge’, begin to accept as ‘unfortunately unavoidable’.


[1]. "In ’48, Israel Did What It Had to Do" – by Benny Morris news/opinion/commentary/

[2]. "Two-State Solution Again Sells Palestinians Short" – by George Bisharat